• The Great Clock's movement was created in 1389, which makes it one of the oldest mechanisms in France.
    © OT et des Congrès de Rouen
    The Great Clock

    The Great Clock's movement was created in 1389, which makes it one of the oldest mechanisms in France.

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination France

Located on the Seine to the north of Paris, the capital of High-Normandy is one of the most beautiful cities in France. The charms of its historic city centre and prestigious Medieval past earn it the nickname of ?city of 100 steeples'. Its ancient roads bordered with half-timbered houses are actually peppered with numerous masterpieces of Gothic art: the cathedral, the courthouse, the Saint-Ouen Abbey-Church and, especially, the famous Big Clock. On Place du Vieux-Marché (Old Market Square) the memory of Joan of Ark, who was executed there, is still very present.

Rouen: what to do?

The city offers a wide range of activities and entertainment for all ages. Bowling, billiards, karting, parachuting, canoeing, cooking and drawing classes and workshops are just some of the possibilities in Rouen.

The city also has many sports facilities: a fitness centre, several swimming pools and aquatic centres, and two ice skating rinks. There are four theme parks located around the city: the Artmazia, the Pays de Honfleur maze, the Pays de Rouen maze and Woupi Park.

You can also discover the region's fauna and flora by visiting one of the three nearby zoos: Roumare Animal Park, Cleres Park and Sauvagette Park.

The month-long St. Romain fun fair takes place towards the end of October, early November. It is the largest fun fair outside of the capital in terms of size and the second largest, after the Foire du Trône in Paris, in the country. At more than 500 years old, it is the oldest fair in France.

Stendhal made no mistake when he nicknamed Rouen the "Athens of Gothic architecture". The city is a prime example of Gothic architecture, just like Athens is for classical architecture. Victor Hugo described Rouen as ?The city of 100 steeples?, and he wasn't far off considering that the city did indeed have nearly a hundred steeples before the French Revolution. Unfortunately, many buildings were destroyed during the Second World War, although this did not prevent the city of Rouen from preserving an exceptional cultural, historical and architectural heritage.

Among the most notable historical monuments, you will find Rouen Cathedral, which was immortalised by Claude Monet in his 'Cathedral' series, Saint Ouen Abbey, the Gros Horloge (Great Clock), the Church of Saint Maclou, the Tour des Archives (Archive Tower), as well as the famous keep of Rouen Castle, known as the Tour Jeanne d'Arc as it was in this castle that The Maid of Orléans was imprisoned and put to trial.

Land of Impressionism, Rouen and its Seine Valley have attracted many artists such as Monet, Gauguin, Sisley and Pissarro. The Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen houses a collection of works by various impressionist painters but also paintings by Caravaggio, Velazquez and Delacroix. It is the largest collection outside of Paris. Several other museums are worth visiting, such as the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Flaubert and the History of Medicine, where you will also find the room where the writer was born, the Joan Of Arc Museum, the Pierre Corneille Museum, and the Maritime, Fluvial and Harbor Museum which traces the history of the port and its trades.

  • The monuments and half-timbered houses.
  • The friendly-sized city.
  • The proximity to the surrounding nature.
  • The filthiness of the streets, especially on the left bank.
  • Few restaurants or shops open on Sunday.
  • The grey weather: there are only 1,520 hours of sunshine per year here (the national average is 2,000).


The Rouen Tourist Office offers a Pass en liberté (Freedom Pass). For ?10 (£8), the pass gives you up to a 50% discount or reduced prices for more than 200 offers in 70 municipalities in the area for 1 year.

To avoid

Rouen seems to fall asleep in winter. The grey streets and the rainy weather can make your stay much less pleasant than in spring and summer.

Rouen: what to eat?

Rouen and the Seine Valley have managed to preserve and develop their local specialities. Rouen is the land of the apple; apple juice, cider, Pommeau and calvados, and even a fruit trail. Small fruit producers and locals will be happy to let you sample their cherries and plums on the roadside. Likewise, the cheese, apple and cider trails will sharpen your taste buds.

Created in 1935, the Fête du Ventre et de la Gastronomie Normande (Food Festival) has become an unmissable event for gourmets. The festival takes place in and around the Place du Vieux Marché and Rue Rollon in Rouen the third weekend of October. The streets are filled with producers dressed in traditional Norman costumes with local farm products available to taste and buy.

Rouen: what to buy?

A bag of 'apple sugar', created in the 16th century. At the time, this 'sugar' was made with a quarter of apple juice and three quarters of sugar heated to 350 degrees before being shaped into sticks, pastilles or bars coated with a layer of sugar. In the 19th century, its shape evolved and became a 4 inch stick representing the Great Clock of Rouen. Nowadays, glucose and essence of apple and lemon juice are added to create a completely transparent sweet.

Faïence (soft-paste porcelain) is also one of the city's most outstanding craft specialities. Two places to buy faïence: Faïencerie Augy-Carpentier (26 rue Saint-Romain) and Faïences Saint-Romain (56 rue Saint-Romain), both in Rouen city centre.

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